Akua (not the real name) is a graduate from the University of Cape-Coast, who studied Business Administration, however, Akua now works as a teacher for children with Special Educational Needs.
I eavesdropped on a conversation between Akua and her colleague working at a Special Needs Educational Centre, as she told her friend, “Every morning when I am coming to work, I meet some of my University mates in a tro-tro (public transport) and they usually complain so much about work pressures and all.
“Here am I enjoying what I do so much, when I got to the University, I knew that subject was not for me, especially when I failed in one of the courses and I had to re-sit,”
Akua seemed to enjoy her current job, she said after the university, she went to take a course in Montessori curriculum and started sending applications around, she was happy when she got the job in the Special Needs school, where she currently works.
According to Akua, her mother was not amused with her decision to work in an Early Childhood development Centre, but with time, her mother had learned to appreciate the importance of the work she is doing with children with Special Educational Needs.
“My mother now boasts of me as someone who really understands children with special needs and is proud of me.”
Even though I was eavesdropping, I could not resist the temptation to jump into the conversation between Akua and her friend, I reiterated how important it was for parents to allow their children to find their purpose and pursue what makes them fulfilled.
I have since been thinking about Caregiving as a professional option for people who find that as a passion.
Respect for professions
We live in a country where some professions are more respected, growing up in the 80s, the best path to walk on was to study science in the Secondary school, it seemed every parent’s dream was for their child to do science and go on to become a medical doctor.
Being a medical doctor, a pharmacist or an engineer was more respected and it seemed to bring on more honour to your parents as compared to doing something else.
I remember how nobody in my class of 30 ever wanted to be a teacher in future, we were told that teachers were poor and their reward was in heaven, nobody in my class wanted to have their reward in heaven, we needed to show off that we also made it in life and that could only be achieved if we became doctors or pharmacists in future.
Well… I did not end up as a doctor, I did not even pursue science as a subject, but I live as a person who finds fulfilment in writing, I became a journalist and an author and I feel so proud of myself.
However, that is not the point of this article, I have been dreaming of a Ghana where we could have professional caregivers to serve a very important community in our country.
Caregiving as a Career
I once met a Lady who after Secondary school went ahead to pursue a Secretarial programme, however, after the programme, she still could not get a job so she enrolled in a Nanny and Day Care Training programme, after her training, she got a job to support a child with cerebral palsy and Autism in a particular special school.
She grew to love this girl and worked with the family for over 15 years, she later resigned from working with the family and started her own home care giving programme, which she continues to pursue.
Lara, told me she discovered that caregiving was her passion and has since given her all to it, she says she gets fulfilled when the children she is caring for improve.
She also intends to train others since the number of families needing her services are growing and she mostly had to turn down some of the requests.
In Ghana we have a large community of people needing the services of caregivers, in the past, our parents brought in our cousins or people from the village, they had an unwritten contract with such people, you stay to support the family for three years, and we enroll you unto a vocational career programme.
In the past, many people saw persons who pursued a vocational career path as people who were not smart enough to go on the academic path, but we are now getting to know better.
I know people who have gone to the university to study complex subjects and graduate to set up vocational ventures such as hairdressing or fashion designing, in fact, such courses are now being pursued at the tertiary level.
Currently there are organizations whose main operations are to train Nannies or domestic workers for families, but many of such organizations also forget one category of people needing help that is the aged and children with disabilities.
I have been involved in advocacy for children with disability for years and one of the feedbacks I get from families raising children with disability was the need for affordable, but professional caregivers.
Many parents say having professional, but affordable caregivers will not only give them respite, but gives the caregiver an opportunity to learn about disability, show empathy and support to the vulnerable.
Caregiving also helps in giving the person providing the service a sense of fulfillment, while establishing extended social networks or friendship groups associated with caregiving.
Providing care gives one a feeling of being needed and useful and caregivers usually get the opportunity to learn something about themselves, others, and the meaning of life, being a caregiver can be a labor of love.
Caregiving has become necessary as a profession or a career because many issues in life can trigger the need for a caregiver, caregiving is triggered by a major health event, such as a stroke, heart attack, or accident or the birth of a medically complex child.
Caregivers provide care to people who need some degree of ongoing assistance with everyday tasks on a regular or daily basis.
With the much-touted free senior high school programme and the majority of youth going into school to access education, I believe that caregiving could become an option for solving the youth unemployment challenge in Ghana.
Government could create shelters in various communities, where caregivers are employed to support both the aged and children with disability.
I believe it is time for Ghana to formalize the use of caregivers and give people the opportunity to know if it was their passion or not.
We are a people who usually receive disability with pity and sympathy instead of empathy, having professional caregivers will give persons without disability an opportunity to learn and interact with persons with disability
Providing care is not a menial job.